Hey, here’s a bad idea: watching this week’s episode of Six Feet Underif you’ve ever had anyone in your life die. Jesus Christ, that was painful.
Work went late tonight. Had to cancel dinner plans. We’re officially in production now.
One of the things I do miss about my pre-television life is my lunch schedule. Every day the writing stopped at one (stee likes to keep things to a pretty tight schedule), and we sat for lunch with The Daily Show. Right now I have an episode on pause. I haven’t watched this show in what feels like months. The set is different. It’s different watching it late at night. I’m by myself. It’s just not the same. And for some reason, this pretty new redesign is much more intriguing than watching a week-old daily show episode with Joe Biden by myself on the couch.
So here I am.
I haven’t been sleeping very well lately. There’s a weight on me that I can’t seem to shake. My head is in so many places at once — friends, work, loved ones, responsibilities — that I can’t seem to let it all go. For the past five years my life went on a pretty basic routine. I was at home, writing. That was my job. Every day I was at home, writing. I wrote all kinds of different things, and on any day I had a meeting or went for a coffee with a friend, but for the most part it was me, my computer, and my co-worker stee. (For about a year of that Ray was pretty much a co-worker. A co-worker who carried Natty Light in a coozie and often brought home bags of Wendy’s, but a co-worker just the same.)
Even the Oxygen show wasn’t too much of a distraction, because the hours were normal working hours. I could make plans in the evening, and my weekends were as close to free as they ever get. But now things are very different. I cannot predict my day. I’m having a fantastic time, and I don’t wish anything could change, but it’s a very big adjustment to my life that I don’t spend the day with stee by my side. We’ve joked that we’re just now starting to live our lives the way normal people spend their day, where you’re gone all day and at night you catch up. But it’s so different that I can feel guilty about it. I don’t know why I just told you that, other than I feel so guilty about it some days that I feel the need to publicly discuss it. He’s asleep right now and I’m on the couch, eyes wide awake, my head in other places, and the only thing I wanted to do was write a new entry. That’s fucked up, isn’t it?
Being in production also means that I don’t have anything to tell you here because my day consists of sitting at a table with seven other people, our heads bent over a script, pitching jokes and alternate lines for hours. How do you explain that? It’s like an all-day staff meeting with catered lunches, but all of your co-workers are really funny. In other words, I feel like I won the job lottery.
Hey, I think I can finally discuss Pseudojob. I can’t sleep, so you get a long story. Deal? Here goes.
Everybody has that one job when they move out here that is like a complete Hollywood cliche. For me, this was Pseudojob. I named it that because it never really seemed like an actual job. When pamie.com went belly-up in the summer of 2001, I had to find a way to pay the bills. My column, combined with Television Without Pity, just wasn’t paying our fancy We-Ho apartment bills. So I got what’s called the UTA job list. This is an email list of available jobs that for some reason you can only get as an email forward from someone who works in the industry. I think, possibly, you can only get this job listing from an agent. I don’t know. I just know my agent friend (and now my agent) sent me the UTA job list so that I could find employment. It’s got probably a hundred jobs listed. Actually, I know it has a hundred jobs listed on it, because I applied to every last damn one of them. Some of them are your typical PA jobs. Some are for readers (someone who reads a script and delivers coverage to a company so they never have to read your script), and some are for weird-ass assistant jobs.
But one of these jobs was for a web designer. Woo-hoo!
Of the one hundred applications I faxed in, emailed in, called about, nagged and begged for, only one place called me back. The web design job. They were looking for a cool grrl who knew her way around html to give their company a web presence. I used words like “branding” and “stickiness” and name-dropped Chick Click, and the next thing I knew, I had scored an interview.
The job was in a fancy-pants apartment building in Hollywood. Famous people live in the building. A doorman. One of those kinds of places. I went in, sat down, and proceeded to discuss my web skillz.
And she said, “I might also have you do a little clerical work as well. Is that okay? I don’t want you to think that you’ll just be doing the web stuff, because you’ll be here all day, and you’re basically going to replace my assistant. Do you mind doing some assistant tasks as well?”
I remember saying, “I’m pretty sure I’d be a fantastic assistant. I like taking care of people.”
You guys, when I said that, I absolutely meant it. Before I took this job, I always thought I’d be a kick-ass assistant. I am organized. I thought I knew how to make people happy. I am on top of things. I’m a director, for Pete’s sake. I know how to get a job done under a deadline.
I was wrong. I am a horrible, horrible, horrible assistant. I am the worst. I do not understand how I got to be an assistant for as long as I did.
The job was in a bedroom. A guest bedroom. My “office” was a bedroom with an enormous bed that was six inches from my desk, mocking me constantly. I went to work immediately on the website, but I soon realized that the company I was designing a site for was a side project of my boss’. This means she had a job, one that she needed an assistant for, and the website was sort of a secret thing she was doing whenever she had free time. This means I was actually an assistant. The web stuff was the very least of her concerns. There were two other people hired at this job. One was an accountant, and the other was some kind of all-inclusive assistant. I think she was in charge of buying groceries, paying the bills, and making sure the apartment was always up and running.
My boss wasn’t supposed to have an assistant. This means I wasn’t allowed to answer the phone. My boss also had a problem with the English language. By that I mean she had some kind of dyslexia, and was so upset about it that you weren’t allowed to ask her to clarify.
My first day at work she gave me a Post-It on which she’d scribbled an address. “Have a messenger go here and pick up a package for me,” she said.
Now, I’m pretty new to Los Angeles, so I don’t know any better. I call the messenger service.
“Yes, I need a pick-up at 123 Coach and Horses Boulevard.”
And the messenger pauses for a moment. Then he says, “Is that in Los Angeles?”
“Um, I think so.”
“No, it’s not.”
“That’s what this says.”
“Tell me again.”
“123 Coach and Horses.”
“No! Where is that?”
“Dude, it’s my first day of work, and my boss just handed me this paper, and this is what it says.”
“You need to ask her what it says.”
I ask my fellow co-worker for a translation. She says she can’t read it, and that I’m under no circumstances allowed to ask for a clarification.
I get back on the phone. “Please, man. Help me out. Let’s figure this out together.”
He sighs. “Fine. What kind of building is this?”
“It says ‘Pantonic.’”
“The Pantonic Building.”
“On Coach and Horses.”
“Yes! You know it?”
“I know it doesn’t exist.”
About ten minutes later the messenger refuses to help me anymore. I put the phone down and ask my boss if she could read to me, out loud, the Post-It, mumbling that I’m still learning her handwriting.
People, it said the Panasonic Building on Cahuenga Boulevard.
And also: no, it didn’t.
Let me just make a list of the things I said and/or did during my time at this place. It will demonstrate the craziness I was working in, as well as why I’m a horrible assistant.
1. She once asked me to figure out how to get a case of Smart Water delivered to the apartment because she had one and thought it tasted good. No, I remember now. She wanted 1000 of them delivered to the New York apartment.
2. When she got to the New York apartment, she called me and asked me to Fed Ex her luggage. Overnight. And when the luggage arrived, she decided she didn’t want to be in New York anymore, so she had the luggage Overnighted back to Los Angeles, so she didn’t have to take it on the plane. Can you imagine having the kind of money that allowed you to Overnight your luggage so you don’t have to do anything but la-la-la onto a plane?
3. Then she called and asked me to find her cold sore cream. Which was in her underwear drawer. Her thong drawer, y’all. I had to paw through that to find the cold sore cream because apparently the city of New York does not have a Duane Reade.
4. She told me in excruciating detail about her daily colonics. Do you know that I know she found a watermelon seed in there, and she hadn’t eaten watermelon “in at least a year”? When do you recover from that? (Answer: never.)
5. She told me she wanted the index page of the website to be a quicktime file. That’s something for the geeks to marvel over, but come the fuck on. Do you know why? She didn’t like Flash. She’d rather you went to the website and waited for a Quicktime file to download. Un-fucking-believable.
6. I was listening to Radiohead on the computer when she came in and asked, “What the fuck is this noise?” I told her it was Radiohead. She listened for about another minute before asking, “Can we get them? Do they need an agent?” I just laughed and laughed and laughed.
7. I was working there when 9-11 happened. One week later, the boss came into my bedroom and said, “I need you to tape Tom Brokaw tonight. He’s going to tell us which cave Osama Bin Laden is hiding in.” After 9-11, I just lost all tact at this place. I looked at her and said, “No, he’s not. Every word of what you just said to me is wrong.”
8. Then, after 9-11, she didn’t want to be an agent anymore. I still needed work. She fired me, and then rehired me, for cash under the table, for three hundred dollars a week, to come to her apartment and clean it. And that’s what I did for six weeks, up until Christmas. I cleaned her house. And didn’t answer the phone. And kept up to date with Tom Brokaw, because she needed to know where Osama was.
9. The website, when it was finally finished, was determined a complete failure. It is the ugliest website of all time. Enormous graphics. A serious lack of copy. No actual information. It still exists, and sometimes I go there and just thank everything that I got out of there when I did. Because if I hadn’t been fired (by never getting asked back to work), I never would have finished my novel. She did me a huge favor by having a mental breakdown. She was too scared to be a boss anymore, and I was too humiliated to beg to work for her anymore. The shame was mutual.
I’m not even telling all of the stories, because some of them are so obnoxious. But here’s where I knew I was a bad assistant.
One day she asked me to call the phone company to reprogram the remote control. That is not a typo. She gave me the phone book, her phone bill, and the television remote. She said I needed to call the phone company to get a code that would make the remote work with her big-ass spare television.
A good assistant would just look up the remote code, punch it in, and never say anything else.
I’m not a good assistant. I needed her to know that the phone company doesn’t know fuck all about her remote control, and if I called them, I’d look like an asshole. Why did I need her to know that? Because I was so mad that she had the kind of money that kept her from having to know how her fucking remote control worked. She had the kind of money that kept her from knowing how much it cost to get a car washed, how much it cost to buy chicken schwerma, or how much it cost to pick up lattes for everybody on my way in.
The last straw for me was the day she couldn’t get her voice mail messages. She called and said we needed to get them for her. The password she had given us didn’t work. It just didn’t. I know how to check voice mail. But the code she gave us was wrong. And we all knew she had mixed up some of the numbers in her head, and we had two choices: ask her to give us the code again, explaining that she had switched something, or crack the code ourselves like hackers.
We couldn’t hack the code. When the nicer co-worker gently suggested that perhaps she had mistaken the code, the boss lady said, “If you guys can’t figure this shit out, you’re all assholes and I should fire every last one of you.”
And I’ve never wanted to walk out of a building like I did at that moment. Nobody calls me an asshole when I’m absolutely in the right. Holy shit, that woman should be grateful she was three thousand miles away from me at that moment, because I wanted to set her on fire. I’m the asshole because she can’t remember her voicemail mailbox code? And do you know why she couldn’t remember it? Because she never had to use it! Because she had the kind of money that made it so she never had to check her messages. Other people were paid to do it for her. Other people were paid to make videotapes — I swear to God — so that when her brother was on a late-night crime procedural drama, she only had to watch the scenes he was in. There was a professional serviceshe hired that would make a special copy of the episode for her that only had her brother’s scenes in them. I’m not kidding. Sick, fuck you money, that means she never had to live her life like a normal person.
And that’s why I made a lousy assistant. I couldn’t understand why someone would want to drop out of reality like that. How can you talk to people if you don’t know what it’s like to be a person?
We call this time in my life “Apoplex, Please!” because that was the email I got one night after writing a lengthy email about how we cannot write an entire website in a font that isn’t a web-friendly font. I explained that to write an entire website in the Apoplex font, I’d have to make the entire website a graphic, one that would make the entire site look like shit. I begged them to understand, tried to explain code as simply as possible, and showed examples of all the different ways we could go. Instead of addressing a single line of my ten-item, thoughtful proposal, they just sent back “Apoplex, Please!”
And I went apoplectic.
It’s now two in the morning. I still don’t feel tired. But if I don’t stop writing about Pseudojob now, I will be forever incriminating myself. But the confidentiality agreement expired long ago. Fuck it. I just want you to know that when you’re thinking about moving out to Los Angeles, your first job will be one that makes absolutely no sense, and you’re the only one who knows what the hell is going on, and nobody will listen to you and it will make you make a lot of declarations about the type of person you’re going to be when you finally make a real paycheck around here. One of two things happens: either you decide you’re going to be the same person you are right now and you’ll never become one of those assholes who doesn’t understand that fifty bucks is a lot of money, or you’ll swear that you’ll do the same damn thing the second you get an underling, and you’ll make their lives hell because you had to sweat through bullshit to get to where you are. I swore to be the first kind. I hope I’m doing okay.
But then again, I don’t have an assistant.